There are a number of tools and techniques that you can use to help people understand more about their health. See some useful suggestions below.
You cannot tell if a person has understood you just by looking at them or by asking them. The teach back method is a useful way to confirm that the information you provide is being understood by getting people to ‘teach back’ what has been discussed and what instruction has been given. This is more than saying ‘do you understand?’ and it is more to check that you have explained things correctly to the patient. The following video provides an example of teach back.
Use simple language
The terminology used in healthcare can often be confusing for people, especially at times of distress when people may struggle more than usual to take in information. In health a range of jargon and acronyms are used routinely
Letters, forms and medical tests are just some examples, in addition to face-to-face consultations, where medical and health terminology could cause confusion.
An example could be, inviting someone to x-ray by letter but when they arrive at the hospital the signage is for radiology. They may not be aware of what radiology is and they could search for x-ray, causing more stress and anxiety and affecting their attendance.
Simple changes can help, think of the terms you currently use in your practice and what other words and phrases you could use to support understanding.
Some examples could be
- skin infection - cellulitis
- smoking cessation – stop smoking
- diet – what you eat and drink
- referral – being sent to see someone else
Try using simple language as much as possible, and explain things to people as you would to a friend or family member. To find out more visit webpage below.
Chunk and check
Chunk and check can be used alongside tools such as teach back to assist in promoting understanding. When we speak to patients and clients there is often a lot of information to be discussed and it may be necessary to explain more than one concept. People may struggle to take on board a long list of things that they are being asked to take in or do, and yet this is often how information is presented.
Sometimes the explanation of what people are being asked to understand and to take away and put into practice is left until the end of the consultation/discussion. To find out more visit
Spoken and written word is often misheard or misread and also misunderstood, pictures and visuals may be effective in improving understanding when communicating new or complex ideas to people. It may be that pictures are used to compliment text, for example, when explaining a self management procedure such as giving an injection or caring for a wound it may assist people if they have it explained to them in words but also shown what to do using images.
In some cases, pictures alone may be enough, but pictures alone should only be used as an option where you are sure the person has enough understanding and knowledge to interpret it correctly. Ideally, as with written materials, pictures should be used to assist and support explanations not to replace them. One outcome which has been identified in the use of pictures is that they support recall, people are more likely to recall information they have been provided with if they receive pictures in addition to written or spoken information.To find out more visit:
Help with paperwork
Routinely offer help with paperwork.
Take a universal approach to offering support to those who have to fill in forms and paperwork. You may also wish to consider the paperwork that you post out to people and whether this may cause unneeded anxiety and stress for people before they attend for their appointment. Is there medical terminology which can be simplified?
Offering routine support can help reduce pressure and stigma on people who may struggle with the forms and also support your service in gathering the information that they require. To find out more visit: